Creating a blog was out of the question for a long time for me, as measuring everything in the kitchen was like biting into an eggshell. I enjoy cooking and don’t want to waste even a slightest bit of enjoyment in that small world of mine. But little did I know that everything will change, when my husband came home with the Oscar nominated film ‘Julie and Julia’( a real life story) where Julie Powell (part played by Amy Adams) challenged herself to make all the 524 recipes from Julia Child's cook book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and blogging all her experiences (The Julie/Julia Project). It was an inspiring movie. A few days later when we were discussing this casually with a friend of ours over tea…everything changed dramatically…..” How about you making at least half of it in one year? Not French but your own. 262 recipes that will inspire others and present it as a blog?” For a minute my mind traveled faster than light… With an experience as a helper in my mother in laws kitchen for 6 years followed by a three year everyday struggle to satisfy the palate of my foodie husband, if I cannot do it then why should I cook? But on the other side with an experience in English literature extending no more than expanding outline stories in English grammar class when I was 18 and two small kids that come in handy at times, will a commitment for the next one year work? Anyway my ‘cook's ego’ didn’t allow me to say no...

So my friends …here I am opening my recipe book, trying to perfect and present 262 recipes in the coming 365 days….A Challenge that will of course tastes good. Come.. Have a walk with me along my journey.. Cheering and inspiring….Forgiving and tolerating…Testing and tasting….for ‘A Tasty Challenge’

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Vanpayar Mezhukkupuratti/ Sauteed Red Mung Beans

Recipe No: 294
Ingredients                                             Serves 3-4
  • Vanpayar/ Red Mung Beans…1/2 Cup
  • Oil………………………………………2 Tablespoons
  • Shallots…………………………..…..5
  • Garlic cloves………………………..3 Big/ 6 small
  • Curry Leaves……………………...1 Sprig
  • Red Chilly………………………..…3-4 (substitute with crushed Red Chilly according to your taste)
  • Salt to taste
Method of Preparation
  1. Wash the Beans thoroughly and boil it on high heat together with 1 ½ Cups of Water. Once boiled, reduce the flame to low and let it cook until tender.
  2. When you feel that the Beans is almost cooked but a bit of Water still remains, add the necessary Salt; mix well and let the Water evaporate and the Beans finish cooking. (The best way to check whether the Beans are cooked is by biting into one of them. If it is soft, it is done and don’t wait for the skin to split open.)
  3. Switch off the heat and keep aside until needed.
  4. Crush together Shallots, Garlic and the Red Chilly (If you are using Chilly Flakes don’t crush it; just add it to the Oil while sauteing) in a Mortar and Pestle slightly. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, do use a food processor (or just slice it thin in extreme cases), but please don’t make it too fine. (This process can be done while cooking the Beans.)
  5. Heat Oil a pan or a wok on high heat and saute the crushed ingredients together with Curry Leaves for about 30 seconds. (Don’t let it burn; do stir)
  6. Add the cooked Beans; mix well; reduce the heat to medium low and let it fry for about 8-10 minutes or till the required texture is attained. (I like it a bit on the crispy side.) Don't forget to stir now and then in order to avoid burning on the bottom.
  7. Switch off the heat and serve it hot with Rice.
  • The extent to which the Beans should be cooked for this recipe require special mention. It shouldn’t be mashed; but cooked well enough so that it remains soft. This process will take around 20-30 minutes, so please don’t try to rush the process.
  • Red Beans can be cooked in a Pressure cooker but take care not to overcook. You may have to drain the excess water in that case to prevent overcooking; but discarding the cooking liquid, which may contain the nutrition, can be avoided if cooked on stove top.
  • Don’t add Salt at the beginning of the cooking process as it will increase the cooking time of the Beans. But don’t forget to add Salt before it is done cooking; otherwise the Beans will not absorb Salt.
  • Coconut Oil is not a must for this recipe even though it tastes the best.

Make it, enjoy the deliciousness and 
serve it to your family with love…

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stuffed Mushrooms

Recipe No: 293
This is the simplified vegetarian version of the Chicken Stuffed Mushrooms that I posted earlier. It is easy, delicious and perfect for an appetizer.
Ingredients                                                    Serves 3
  • Mushrooms…………......8 oz/ 227 Grams/ 12 small Mushrooms
  • Oil……………………………1 Tablespoon
  • Onion chopped………....1/3 Cup
  • Garlic chopped fine…..1 big clove
  • Cream Cheese…………..4 oz/ ½ Cup/ 125 grams (At room temperature)
  • Bread Crumbs…………..1/4 Cup
  • Butter……………………...1 Teaspoon
  •  Salt and Pepper to taste
Method of Preparation
  1. Clean the Mushrooms and remove the stems taking care not to break the caps.
  2. Chop the stems finely and keep aside till ready to be used.
  3. Heat Oil in a pan on medium high heat and saute the Onion and Garlic till slightly translucent.
  4. Add the chopped Mushroom stems and saute till it is cooked for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add necessary Salt and pepper and switch off the heat. Let this mixture cool to a room temperature.
  6. Once the mixture is cooled, mix in Cream Cheese and make sure the seasonings are on spot.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400˚F/ 205˚C.
  8. Lightly salt the Mushroom Caps and fill it with the Cream Cheese mixture. It is okay if some of the filling covers the top of the Mushrooms rims especially, if the space inside the Mushroom cap is very small. Repeat this with all the Mushroom and place them on a greased baking tray.
  9. In another bowl, melt Butter and mix it with the Bread crumbs.
  10. Sprinkle the Bread Crumbs over the stuffed Mushrooms and bake it in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or till the Bread crumbs are slightly brown and crispy.
  11. Once the Mushrooms are cooked, remove from the oven and serve hot.
  • I used Baby Bella Mushrooms (with a brown cap) in this recipe but regular white button Mushrooms will be good.
  • To clean the mushrooms, I give it a light rinse and wipe it thoroughly to remove the Water. Don’t let the Mushrooms absorb too much Water while rinsing.

Make it, enjoy the deliciousness and 
serve it to your family with love…

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baked Yogurt

Recipe No: 292
I ate this once from Thiruvananthapuram Taj during our last visit to Kerala a couple of years ago. It was one among the long array of desserts in the dinner buffet but, the best in my opinion. It took a while for me to get this correct but it sure is different, easy and delicious. Here it goes…
Ingredients                                                 Serves 4
  • Greek Yogurt……….1 Cup (Substitute mentioned in ‘notes’)
  • Condensed Milk…..1/2 Cup (Sweetened; Milkmaid)
  • Saffron……………….a pinch
  • Sugar…………………1 Teaspoon
  • Cardamom…………3
Method of Preparation
  1. Take the seeds out of the Cardamom pods and crush it finely in a mortar and pestle (or something in which you can powder stuff in small amounts.).
  2. Add Saffron along with Sugar to the same Mortar with the crushed Cardamom seeds and crush finely.
  3. Mix the crushed mixture with Sweetened Condensed Milk and Yogurt; mix till incorporated evenly. Keep it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes so that the Saffron can infuse properly. (Adjust the sweetness by adding more Milkmaid at this stage depending on the sourness of the Yogurt.)
  4. Pour the Yogurt mixture equally into 4 Ramekins (small bowls that can withstand baking) and cover each of them with Aluminum foil.
To make Baked Yogurt in the Oven
  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F/ 162˚C.
  2. Place the Ramekins in a big baking tray with hot Water till half way up the Ramekins.
  3. Place this in the preheated oven and bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove it from the oven; take the Ramekins out of the water (be sure to use kitchen mittens to avoid burning) and let it cool.
To make Baked Yogurt on stove top
  1. Heat some Water in a pan (that can fit the Ramekins) to a point just below simmering and place a small kitchen towel in the bottom (The kitchen towel will help to bake the Yogurt evenly.). Place the Ramekins on the towel; close the pan and let it cook for 15-17 minutes. Once cooked, take the Ramekins out of the Water and let it cool.
  2. Things to remember: If cooking on stove top please adjust the temperature of the Water so that it never boils but remains hot. I suggest heating the Water till it starts to form small bubbles on the sides; place the Ramekins and then reduce the temperature to low (not too low) and keep the Water hot throughout cooking. Higher temperature will spoil the texture of the Yogurt. (It will become grainier; but it will still be tasty.)
  3. The level of the Water should be till half way up the Ramekins. Once cooked, take the ramekins out of the Water and let it cool.
Chill the Yogurt for an hour in the Refrigerator. Serve Baked Yogurt in the same Ramekins or run the tip of a knife through the sides and turn it into another plate before serving.(The little yellow specks in the Yogurt is the Saffron.)

  • Please use Yogurt with minimum sourness for this dish. But it is possible to use whole, low fat or fat free Yogurt in this recipe. I used plain fat free Greek Yogurt.
  • I made this dessert with regular yogurt too, but I like it the most when made with Greek Yogurt which is really thick and smooth. But in case Greek Yogurt is not available in your place hang the Yogurt and get rid of all the moisture before making.
  • A very easy way to get rid of the water content in the Yogurt is by the following method. Place a large strainer on top of a bowl so that the bottom of the strainer does not touch the bottom of the bowl (You should leave the space for the straining Water.) Place a cheese cloth (or a cloth with slightly large meshes) on the strainer and put the Yogurt on the cloth. Cover this and let it stand in the fridge for 3-4 hours. By this time most of the Water will be collected at the bottom of the bowl. Discard the Water and use the thickened Yogurt.
  • Saffron is used in this dish for the taste and color. So it is recommended not to use Saffron food color instead. However you can change the flavor of the dish by substituting Saffron and Cardamom with Vanilla extract or Rose Essence if you like.
  • Crushing Saffron along with the Sugar makes the crushing process easy.
  • This dessert should be served slightly cold. If you keep it for longer time in the Refrigerator it will become a bit hard. In that case either keep it at room temperature for sometime  or microwave it for 5-8 seconds to bring down the temperature before serving.

Make it, enjoy the deliciousness and 
serve it to your family with love…

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chicken Pakora/ Pakoda/ Bhaji

Recipe No: 291
There is a small restaurant near our home, here in Alpharetta, which serves these awesome Pakoras. Whenever we go by that area we stop at this restaurant and amazingly kids will never ask ‘are we eating from outside today?’ We all know that we will have Chicken Pakoras at any time of the day, even if we just had our food. This is the result of my desperate attempt to recreate its taste… I will never say that it taste the same but it is pretty close… (I think... I hope...)
Ingredients                                      Serves 6
  • Boneless Chicken……......450 grams (thighs preferred; cut into bite (small) size pieces)
  • Oil for deep frying
To Marinate
  • Salt…………………………....1/2 Teaspoon
  • Pepper Powder………......1/4 Teaspoon
  • Lemon Juice…………….....1 Teaspoon
To Make the Batter
  • Besan/ Chickpea Flour….1/4 Cup (Kadala Mavu)
  • Maida………………………….2 Tablespoons (All Purpose Flour)
  • Rice Flour………………..…..2 Tablespoons
  • Baking Soda………………...1/4 Teaspoon
  • Red Chilly Powder………..1 Teaspoon
  • Salt……………………………..1/2 Teaspoon
  • Garam Masala Powder…1/2 Teaspoon
  • Ginger Garlic Paste……...1/2 Teaspoon
  • Curry Leaves ……………...1 Teaspoon (Cut into very small pieces; 6-8 leaves will do)
  • Coriander Leaves…….…..2 Teaspoons (Cut into very small pieces)
  • Lemon Juice………………..1 Teaspoon
Method of Preparation
  1. Wash the Chicken pieces and drain thoroughly. Wipe off the excess Water as much as possible with a kitchen tissue.
  2. Marinate Chicken with the ingredients mentioned in the ‘to marinate’ section and keep for at least 3-4 hours in the refrigerator. (If you don’t have so much time, please do keep it marinated for at least 1 hour at room temperature; but overnight in the fridge is the best.)  Pakora that we eat from the restaurant has added food color; so if you are using it, please do add along with the marinade.) Let the Chicken come to the room temperature before mixing with the batter.

  3. Mix all the ingredients to make the batter (adding a bit of Water if needed) and mix in with the marinated Chicken. (Don’t make the batter too thin as there will be some liquid in the marinated Chicken too. So if you feel it is too dry after mixing the batter with the marinated Chicken , do sprinkle some more Water.) Keep aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  4. Heat at least an inch of Oil in a frying pan on high heat. Once really hot, reduce the flame to medium or medium high (depending on your stove; too low heat will make the Chicken absorb too much Oil and too high heat will burn the Chicken without cooking) and deep fry the Chicken pieces. Do try to drop the pieces one by one to avoid clumping. Don't overcook and do stir now and then to ensure even cooking. If you are doubtful about the cooking time (which depends on size of the pieces and the heat of the stove), do take one piece out of the Oil and check.
  5. Repeat the process with all the Chicken pieces.
  6. Serve it hot with Ketch up or Mint or Tamarind Chutney.
  • Adjust the amount of Salt, Coriander Leaves and Curry Leaves according to your taste.
  • If you dont have Maida, do use 4 Tablespoons of Rice Flour and vice-versa. 
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan while frying as it will decrease the temperature of the Oil resulting in over absorption of Oil by the Pakoras.
  • I served this with a Chutney made of some Mint Leaves, Coriander Leaves, Green Chilly, Ginger, Salt and Yogurt.

Make it, enjoy the deliciousness and
serve it to your family with love…

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vazhuthananga Pulincurry (Brinjal/ Aubergine in Tamarind Gravy)

Recipe No: 290
A few weeks before a good friend of mine gave me her Mother’s recipe for Prawn in Tamarind gravy (Konchu Puli pizhinjathu).  Even though I am not a big fan of 'sourness', I like the dish so much that I started experimenting the same with many vegetables and this is one of them. Since a vegetarian loving friend of mine asked for its recipe after tasting and I promised her that I will post it in the blog, I am doing this…
Ingredients                                               Serves 4
  • Oil………………………...2-3 Tablespoons (Coconut Oil preferred)
  • Ginger chopped…......1 teaspoon heap
  • Shallots………………....7-8 (Sliced big; about ½ cup)
  • Indian Green Chilly…2 (depending on the taste; I use long ones which are less spicy)
  • Curry Leaves…………..2 Sprigs
  • Tomato sliced………...1/2 medium
  • Brinjal…………………...2 medium (sliced into long medium sized pieces; about 2 cups)
  • Red Chilly Powder…..1 Teaspoon
  • Coriander Powder.….1 Teaspoon
  • Turmeric Powder……1/4 Teaspoon
  • Tamarind Water….…3/4 Cup (Squeeze a large Gooseberry sized Tamarind in hot Water)
  • Salt as needed
Method of Preparation
  1. Heat Oil in a ‘Chatti’ (an earthen cooking vessel) or a stainless steel pan (please refer the notes) on high heat and saute the chopped Ginger for 30 seconds.
  2. Add Shallots, Green Chilly, Curry Leaves and Tomato; saute till the Shallots turn translucent.
  3. Add the Brinjal (squeeze off the excess Water if any) and fry in the Oil for two minutes or till the Brinjal pieces changes its color slightly.
  4. Mix in the Chilly Powder, Coriander Powder and the Turmeric Powder; saute for a minute. Do stir often to prevent burning.
  5. Add the Tamarind Water, Salt and more Water if needed (I used ½ Cup more); mix well. Let it boil and then lower the heat to medium low and cook till Oil starts to float on top and the gravy level is reduced to a desired consistency. (This will thicken a bit when cools down.)
  6. Drizzle a bit of Coconut Oil and some Curry Leaves (Break it into pieces for a stronger smell) on top; switch off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  • The amount of Tamarind depends on your taste. So do taste in between adding rather than dumping everything at once.
  • Tamarind will sometimes be hard; so in that case use hot Water to squeeze the pulp and do discard the seeds (if present) and the hard fibrous parts after squeezing.
  • As Tamarind is extremely acidic, it can react with Aluminum and the non stick coatings; so please use a stainless steel pan or earthenware (the best) like the Chatti to make this curry. However, as prolonged contact of acid with steel is also not good, don’t store the leftovers in stainless steel containers.
  • It is necessary to wash and discard some seeds from the Brinjal if the ones available contains a lot of ripe seeds. In that case use a colander which will allow the seeds to flow out throw the holes while washing.
  • If you are not using Coconut Oil in the beginning, please do try to use it at the end for drizzling. This will give that appealing smell without using a lot of it.
  • A note regarding the two photos: Yes... They are both the same dish .The one on top gives the exact color of the dish when done, but for me the lighting was not so good and it came out a little blurry. The one below is over lighted (I am sorry for that) but not that blurry. So if you are looking for the color of the finished dish, do check the picture on top; but if you are looking for the size and shape of the pieces when done, do refer the picture below... I apologize for the inconvenience caused...

Make it, enjoy the deliciousness and 
serve it to your family with love…